“Your vote. Your ending. Tonight’s episode can be solved by you.”
Unless you live in Hawai‘i, that is.
This week’s episode of “Hawaii Five-0” took an interesting concept and created a bit of buzz and anticipation for a rather mundane procedural. “Kapu,” translated by CBS to mean “Forbidden,” was not unlike those choose-your-own-ending adventures where “you” would make the decisions to solve the case and see how the novel ended. These were books geared towards elementary and middle school boys, although there were a series of romance novels seemingly geared towards girls.
Does this mean “Hawaii Five-0” writers see us as the equivalent to middle school children who need a special promotion to keep our attention? I hope not. Yet from the set up of the procedural, it seemed as if it was kept simple enough for us to stay with the story and make a decision on the killer. This week’s episode was hyped as a historic television event, but I found it hard to be excited when Hawai‘i fans could not vote on the outcome.
But I moved on. From the start, the episode kept me on my toes — though not always in a good way. It seemed as if the episode moved so fast I wondered if I was missing anything. The dead body Professor Cutler dropped into a vat of acid, albeit completely gross, definitely set up a murder, and then we were introduced to the three “killers” — Cutler’s boss, Patrick Roth; the teaching assistant, Bram Helms; and the red herring student, Rebecca.
After our intrepid McG and Danno engage in a pink Vespa car chase, they find that Rebecca is just a student who wants to get a good grade by taking uppers and trying to beat who she calls “the cheaters,” who have been buying exams and skewing the grading curve. So the Five-0 gents head back to O‘ahu State University to find the cheating student, who is caught by Danno’s nephew (Andrew Lawrence) — who seems to know a thing or two about cheating himself.
If you’re still with me, things seemed to move even faster after McG made a nice tackle of the TA to find out why he was selling exams. After searching Cutler’s home to gather more intel, then it was back to the lab to have Fong (Brian Yang) give them a key piece of information about an extinct Hawaiian plant that Cutler seemed to have brought back to life. That leads the team to Ni‘ihau, the Forbidden Island.
Now the theme kicks in, as not only is Ni‘ihau called the Forbidden Island because of its self imposed isolation, but also because of all the reasons Chin provided — it is a private island, owned by the Robinson family, and you must have special permission to visit the island. Ni‘ihau is home to about 130 Native Hawaiians who speak Hawaiian and live off the land, making beautiful jewelry with the unique Ni‘ihau shells found on their shores. Their lei pūpū o Niʻihau, or Ni‘ihau shell lei, and can be sold for thousands of dollars.
This part of the episode I really liked, as I loved that Chin had an entire scene with a Ni‘ihau resident in Hawaiian. I loved that it was not subtitled — I’m sure it bothered some to not know what was being said, but I was thankful that they cast a real ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i speaker, the stunning Tuti Kanahele, to play the Ni‘ihau village elder. Kanahele, a professor of Hawaiian Language at Windward Community College, spoke in the Ni‘ihauan dialect — which according to Wikipedia, “differs from modern Hawaiian in that, for example, [t] and [r] are the most common realizations of the phonemes /k/ and /l/.”
Daniel Dae Kim did a nice job in his response, and I was thrilled that the scene was so realistic. Bravo, “Hawaii Five-0” for using the Hawaiian language to give everyone a beautiful image of our people and culture.
But I digress. Once Chin Ho gets a good piece of information from Kanahele’s character, he and McG find the botanist (Jeff Fahey) who had been working with Professor Cutler to find the plant Fong identified that grows on Ni‘ihau in order to save his cancer-stricken son.
Did you get all that? There was just so much information smashed into an hour — well, less than an hour as we also had several commercials interrupting our viewing reminding us to vote. Which I couldn’t do, since I live in Hawai‘i. And I haven’t even started to tell you about the subplot involving Kono babysitting cooperating witness Sang Min. His arrival scene, where he greets the “still spicy” Kono, was a great touch of comedy, and the scene when he sat outside his wife’s house watching her have dinner with his son and her new husband, was touching and a nice way to bring Sang Min back into the plot.
I like Will Yun Lee, and am glad he is back as the bad guy turned good. Perhaps we shouldn’t trust Sang Min, but there is definitely something about him that I like.
Oh, wait, did I forget to mention who ended up being the killer? In the Hawai‘i episode, our killer was the student, Tyler Brown. The east coast voted for the boss, Patrick Roth, as the killer. Regardless of which killer you got to see be taken down by Chin and McG, the motive for both was that they wanted to take Cutler’s information and take the credit and the money that the cancer cure could generate. Sort of an anti-climatic ending, if you ask me. I was way more interested in the Ni‘ihau scenes, the Uncle Danno lessons he was trying to impart on his wayward nephew, as well as the scenes with Kono and Sang Min.
Again, the procedural, as well as the hyped vote for the killer, was far less interesting than the development of our leads and a few of the peripheral characters.
I am crossing my fingers that this Sunday’s episode will be far more fulfilling. It looks like Sang Min and several other bad guys will be returning to wreak havoc for our team. I only hope that the gimmicks get left behind and we return to our regular action-packed, cargument-filled, bromantic episodes.
I would definitely vote for that.
Redux Side Note:
Local Hawai‘i actor Wayne Coito played the part of the room service attendant who brought Sang Min his jumbo shrimp meal. Coito was featured in the film “Princess Ka‘iulani,” as well as in the television shows “I’m Alive” and “Off the Map,” the latter of which was also filmed in Hawai‘i.
There will be three episodes of “Hawaii Five-0” in a row starting Saturday, Jan. 19, with a repeat of “Lekiō” with special guest stars James Caan and Dennis Miller. Sunday, Jan. 20 is a special episode that will air after the NFL’s AFC championship. “ʻŌlelo Hoʻopaʻi Make,” or “Death Sentence,” features the return of several former guest stars, including Will Yun Lee, Daniel Baldwin, and Hawai‘i-based actors Jason Scott Lee and Troy A. Ignacio.
On Monday, Jan. 21, another new episode will air. “Hana I Wā ‘Ia,” or “Scandal,” will feature Richard T. Jones returning as Governor Denning.
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher who lives and works in Honolulu. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.